Flora & Fauna

Humboldt’s Original Skunk Weed

It smells a little skunky along the trail. Did a fellow hiker light up a joint ahead of you or it could be a botanical wonder of the coast redwoods and beyond?!

The smelly and brightly-colored flowers of skunk cabbage.

The smelly and brightly-colored flowers of skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage emerges early in the year in swampy lowland regions of the coast redwood forest. It is known scientifically as Lysichiton americanus and the Greek meaning of the name is “loose tunic” which refers to the yellow hood (spathe) that cups the flower stalk (spadix). If you bring your nose close to the flower you will smell a repulsive stench! This odor attracts small flies that pollinate the plant.

The flowers get lots of attention, but the leaves of skunk cabbage are impressive and deserving in their own right because of their sheer size. Have you seen skunk cabbage this spring?

Huge leaves of skunk cabbage dwarf the pungent flowers.

Huge leaves of skunk cabbage dwarf the pungent flowers.

If you want to plan your own trip to the redwoods to sniff for Lysichiton, visit Save the Redwood League’s Redwoods Finder for more information.

I recommend viewing this skunky plant along the James Irvine Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park or on the Skunk Cabbage Trail in Redwood National Park.

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